Prime Minister David Cameron said he supports a campaign from his Conservative lawmakers to put pressure on other U.K. political parties to back a bill allowing a referendum on the nation’s membership of the European Union.
Cameron cannot introduce government legislation on an EU referendum because his Liberal Democrat coalition partners oppose it. Instead, the Tories have published a draft bill to guarantee a vote by end-2017. The so-called private member’s bill will be steered through Parliament by Tory lawmaker James Wharton, with the entire party under orders to back it.
The Tories today launched a campaign website called letbritaindecide.com, designed to rally support for Wharton’s bill ahead of a debate on July 5. To succeed it would require the support of lawmakers from other parties as Cameron cannot command a majority in Parliament. The Tories say this bill will highlight where the opposition Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats stand on the question.
“In this party we are committed to a renegotiation and an in-out referendum before the end of 2017,” Cameron said in his weekly question-and-answer session in Parliament today. “But there has been a staggering silence from the party opposite. Apparently half of the Shadow Cabinet support a referendum and the other half don’t. Well, they will have their chance. They can turn up and vote for a referendum.”
Cameron has promised a renegotiation of the U.K.’s membership of the EU, followed by popular vote on whether to stay in the bloc, if his party wins the 2015 general election outright.
Cameron meets leaders from Group of Eight nations next week to discuss, among other matters, a trading partnership between the EU and the U.S. On June 10, Cameron told business leaders in London that Britain’s membership of the EU is good for business and allows the government to help set rules on trade and tax.